Cardinals activate slugger Pujols

Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols applauds in the dugout during the fifth inning Tuesday in St. Louis. (JEFF ROBERSON ~ Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols is more than just one of the best players in baseball. He's also an incredibly rapid healer.

The St. Louis Cardinals activated their three-time NL MVP off the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, a month ahead of schedule in his recovery from a broken left wrist.

Pujols was not in the lineup Tuesday night against Cincinnati. But Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he expected Pujols would be in the lineup today.

"Thrilled," La Russa said. "We all are. It's about as good a break as we could catch."

The NL Central leaders initially believed Pujols would be out six weeks after getting hurt June 19 in a collision at first base with the Royals' Wilson Betemit. The Cardinals thought Pujols would be back in early August.

Tuesday was the first day Pujols was eligible to return from the DL. He said he'd predicted 15 days would be enough.

"Does it surprise you?" Pujols said. "It doesn't surprise me. A lot of people praying for me and I believe all the prayers are being answered.

"That's a good way to describe it."

Reds manager Dusty Baker said he thought Pujols might be back early.

"I didn't think it was going to take as long as they said originally, knowing Albert," Baker said. "With modern medicine, and he's probably working on it around the clock, no it doesn't really surprise me.

"Somebody else, maybe. But not him."

The team's medical staff cleared Pujols to return earlier in the day. For a final test, Pujols had an active pregame. Pujols, clad in shorts, took his first round of live batting practice from first base coach Dave McKay and also fielded dozens of grounders at first base. Then he had more hitting work indoors.

"He's not in the starting lineup because he hasn't had a rigorous workout, and I feel like it would be good for him to get one of those, and then play tomorrow," La Russa said. "I just try to use common sense."

The Cardinals placed left-handed reliever Brian Tallet on the 15-day disabled list with a right ribcage injury that the pitcher said had been hindering him for about a week. Tallet said the source of his injury was a violent sneeze.

"It wasn't anything weird," Tallet said. "I was just kind of laying down with my boy and coughed a couple times and then a big sneeze."

La Russa said there was no chance that Pujols could talk his way into the lineup Tuesday. Lance Berkman played first base and Matt Holliday was in Pujols' No. 3 spot.

"We talked and that's private," Pujols said. "That's between me and Tony and the trainers, so I don't have to tell you the discussion we had. When he posted the lineup, if I was there, it was fine.

"I'm just happy to be available for the ballclub. It's better than being on the DL, so I'm pretty excited."

Pujols said there was no pain and he felt great after taking indoor batting practice and fielding grounders outside Monday.

The Cardinals went 6-7 without Pujols.

"That's what our club has been doing," La Russa said. "They've been doing a good job of compensating."

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